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Being British




What does it mean, exactly, to be British? In strictly political terms, it means to be a member of one of the four constituent countries —or nations— of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In recent years, however, the two referendums —over independence for Scotland and membership of the European Union— have had a profound effect on just how British people see themselves, promoting feelings of both nationalism and Europeanism throughout the UK.
So what does it mean, exactly, to be a Briton? Is it possible to define a national identity? It is certainly possible to talk about interests and priorities, and about ideas which unite much of the population, although these have changed over the years and will continue to change in the future. A perfect example is the royal family. Are British people monarchists? For much of the last century, attachment to the monarchy was a defining characteristic of the British. Now it is possible to say that this feeling has been reduced, for many people, to respect for just the Queen.
   
Surveys of foreigners about the British character normally emphasise that Brits care about tradition, are witty, reserved and very class-conscious.

British people also seem to have a very clear idea of who they are, and some of it is not pretty! Queue-jumping is considered the ultimate crime. Wearing long white socks with shorts is considered acceptable. Apologising automatically, without thinking, is in the genes, as is saying “Thank you” multiple times during any purchase in a shop.   

Finally, what is the most typical British characteristic of all? It will surprise no one to find out that it is talking, often at length, about the weather.